Spoilers: Set S2; No specific spoilers.
Summary: Don's sick and Charlie steps in, but Don doesn't do well with the role reversal.
Notes: Many thanks to devra for another alpha and her
support. All mistakes left are mine.
I figured with all the Charlie H/C out there, that Don needed some more to balance it out. I also snuck in a reference to a previous fic I wrote if anyone catches it :-).
Disclaimer: I do not own Numb3rs or anything connected with it. I'm just borrowing and will return all in one piece. Really.
"You sure are grumpy when you're sick."
The only response Charlie earned was a glare and a cough that lasted far too long for his taste. Don didn't get sick often, but when he did, it was always bad, and this, of course, was no exception. Don reached across the coffee table for a tissue box just slightly out of his reach. Charlie shook his head then picked it up and met him half way. Don plucked a wad of tissues from the box and coughed again, shoving the handful of tissues over his mouth to capture his germs. When he finished, he leaned his hand against the back of the couch and closed his eyes.
"This is all your fault," he accused hoarsely, not bothering to open his eyes.
"I told you to stay away," Charlie countered. "Besides it's that time of year. Statistically speaking, your chances of getting sick were already greater because of the germs floating around your office."
"Statistically speaking, I also had my bronchitis laden brother cough all over me."
"I did not cough all over you..." Charlie stuttered. "I coughed in the room you happened to be standing in," he indignantly defended. "Now do you want soup or not?"
Don opened his eyes. "Soup made by you or soup made by Dad?"
"Good? Just what are you implying? That I can't cook?"
Don laughed, but it quickly turned into another series of coughs. Charlie shifted and lifted up the Kleenex box again.
"Can't is an understatement," Don finally managed, and tried tossing the crumple tissues into the trash a few feet away. His aim was off - badly - and the tissues fell to the floor. Don frowned at his own incompetence.
Charlie scooped up the tissue and dropped it in the garbage. "I can too cook. I cooked last week, you know."
"Believe me I know. I talked to Dad. Cooking is not one of your strengths, buddy."
"Gee, Don, that hurts." Charlie took a seat across from his brother and for the first noticed the TV was on, showcasing a muted basketball game. "Dad thinks you should come and stay with us."
"Does he now? Well, it's not going to happen. I can take care of myself just fine, thank you." Another round of coughing broad sided Don leaving him panting and gasping when finished. His wheezing was openly apparent now as he cradled his head in hands.
"Yeah, you've taken really good care of yourself," Charlie muttered.
"Pot. Kettle. Black," Don shot back, not bothering to lift his head.
Don did have him there, Charlie knew. "Okay, we both do lousy jobs of taking care of ourselves," he admitted. "Guess it's a good thing we have each other, then. And Dad."
"And Dad," Don echoed. "Dad worries too much."
"He does," Charlie agreed. "And that's why neither of us tells him anything. But me? Come on. The only reason I found out you were sick was because I dropped by your office and Megan told me you'd taken a sick day. You never take sick days, so I figured it had to be bad, so..."
"I don't keep everything from you," Don interrupted, tipping his head up so that he was looking at Charlie.
Charlie shrugged. "Well, maybe not everything, but I know when the files you give me are missing things. Such as crime scene photographs."
"You don't need to see that stuff, Charlie. They aren't important."
"Perhaps," Charlie agreed. "But I can handle seeing them. I'm not as bad as I used to be."
"Just because you can handle seeing them doesn't mean you should see them," Don responded. "You get the stuff you need."
Charlie took another look at his brother; this was definitely a discussion to be continued at another time, when don felt more like himself. His brother had shifted, pressing himself back into the couch, trying not to look completely miserable and failing. Pale, except for a few splashes of red from the fever that Don denied he had.
"You take your temperature?" he asked.
"Yes," Don grumbled.
"And I have a fever, okay? I took some Tylenol."
Charlie leaned forward in his seat. "When did you take it?"
"A couple of hours ago."
"Well, then it obviously hasn't helped, so you're far from fine. I'm here to help you, Don."
"This isn't a case. I don't need your help," Don spat, and Charlie was a bit taken back by the guff edge to his tone. He chalked up Don's tone and attitude to the sickness and the grumpiness that went along with fever and coughing.
"You don't need a case to ask for my help," he responded. "At least, I'd hope you know that, don't you?"
Don sighed, and Charlie wished he knew what was going on in his brother's head. "I didn't mean..." Don pushed himself more upright. "I'm fine, really."
"Just because you keep saying it doesn't make it true." He had a sense of déjà vu as he spoke those words; it had been something their mother had repeated often, especially when one of them got caught lying.
Charlie got up and before Don could protest, laid a hand across his forehead. "Yup. Tylenol's definitely not working."
Don batted Charlie's hand away, but ended up coughing yet again. This time when Charlie reached for the tissue box he dropped it into Don's lap.
"Thanks," he said in a barely audible hoarse voice.
Charlie smiled. "Anytime. But seriously, Don, you do sound terrible. Maybe you should see a doctor."
Don tossed another used tissue towards the trash. He missed again, and finally defeated he allowed his body to sink into the couch. "That's probably not a bad idea."
"Of course it's not. I don't come up with bad ideas. Who's your doctor? Is it still Dr. Fisher?"
"Dr Fisher?" Don repeated. "Didn't we him when we were kids?"
"Yes, but he's a family practitioner and a good family friend so Dad refused to see anyone else.' Charlie shrugged. "So by osmosis, he's still mine."
"Ahh too lazy to switch?" Don smirked.
Charlie shrugged. "He takes my insurance. I bet he could fit you in."
"Even if he could, how exactly am I getting there? I think I'm a little too old to be sitting on the back of your bike." Don was winded at the end of the statement and Charlie frowned slightly.
"I do have a learner's permit," he pointed out. "All I need is a car and a licensed driver. So...where are your keys?"
Don shook his head. "No way."
"I have car insurance, I promise."
"It's my car and so I decide who drives it."
"You're feverish, so therefore unable to make a coherent decision; therefore, you definitely shouldn't be driving. The fact that you don't trust me is something we will talk about when you're feeling better."
"Do the words 'speeding' and 'dent' mean anything to you?" Don wheezed.
"It was a one time thing," Charlie insisted. It had been, and as he had promised, Charlie paid for it. "Look, Don, just let me help."
Don stared at him a long moment and for the second time in less then ten minutes, Charlie wished he knew what Don was thinking. Defeated, Don laid his head back against the couch and closed his eyes.
"My keys are on the kitchen table," he conceded. "But I still doubt you'll be able to get a doctor's appointment this late in the afternoon."
Charlie grinned. "Watch me."
"This isn't my apartment building."
Charlie gripped the steering wheel a moment before turning off the ignition. "No, it's not."
"I thought you were taking me back to my place."
"No, you thought that. I thought differently."
Don sighed and let out a cough. "You called Dad, didn't you?"
"Yep," Charlie admitted. "You should be proud, though. I remembered to take my cell with me today."
"Of course you remember to grab it today. I do not need you and Dad double-teaming me."
"Why not? You and Dad do it to me all the time. I figure it's about time I returned the favor."
"Great," Don muttered. "I don't need this." A cough followed and betrayed his words.
"Yes, you do," Charlie shot back. "Why is this so difficult?"
"Why is what so difficult?"
"You," Charlie gestured with his hand, "this. You're sick, Don. Sick people get taken care of. It just happens. Both you and Dad doted upon me when I was sick. It's your turn."
"I don't need a turn," Don insisted.
"No, you need a nap." Charlie opened the car door. "Come on. You never did get a chance to try Dad's soup."
For a moment Charlie thought Don might protest, so he was surprised when his brother opened the passenger door.
"Oh." Charlie handed Don his car keys as they walked towards the back door. "No dents this time."
"Walking pneumonia," Don corrected.
"Excuse me, walking pneumonia," Alan repeated. "Putting an adjective in front of it doesn't make me feel any better, you know." Charlie watched as Don closed his eyes and leaned against the kitchen counter and he figured, for once, his brother needed a hand.
"In this case, the adjective is a good thing," Charlie informed their father. "Dr. Fisher said most people only believe they're suffering from a bad case of the flu. The coughing will linger, but antibiotics should clear up the worst in a few days."
Don chose that moment to cough, a deep hacking cough and Alan shot him a look that clearly said 'that-is not-going-away-in-a-few-days.'
"I'm fine," Don muttered, panting and sounding like a broken record. Charlie shook his head.
"Spoken from someone who is, of course, anything but," Alan respondedthen reached up to touch Don's forehead. Don intercepted the hand before it got too close.
"Dad," he warned.
"Donnie," Alan countered.
Charlie chuckled at the showdown.
Don glared at him. "You amused by my misery?"
"At least you admit there's misery," Charlie responded. "Especially since just a minute ago you were fine." He turned to their father. "I think Don needs to lie down. Are there clean sheets on the bed upstairs?"
"Traitor," Don grumbled, but Charlie chose to ignore him.
"Of course there are clean sheets on the bed. I put them on when you called. I also made more soup, since I assume you didn't eat any of the batch I sent with Charlie."
Don rolled his eyes. "Dad, this is not necessary."
"Maybe not, but I'm your father, so humor me." Alan took that moment to turn towards the stove and lit the burner under the large pot sitting there.
"Yeah, humor him," Charlie echoed and ducked when Don scooped a potholder off the counter and launched it at him, but like the wad of tissues, missed its mark by a long shot.
"Enough," Alan said, not even taking his eyes off the pot. "Donnie, go upstairs. Charlie-"
"I'll help him get settled," Charlie cut in.
Charlie narrowly missed getting hit by another potholder.
The exhaustion in Don's eyes was painfully apparent by the time he climbed the stairs. Don headed straight for the bed, the minute Charlie opened the door. With a groan, he lowered himself down onto the freshly made bed then muffled a cough in the pillow.
He still wasn't quite sure why Don resisted being taken care of so much. Don was always trying to take care of him, protect him, and except for using his mathematical skills to help Don out, Charlie rarely had the opportunity to return the favor. But solving FBI cases weren't the same as making sure your brother had enough Kleenex.
Kleenex and soup were family and family was important.
Don coughed again, and Charlie winced. Don sounded much worse than his own recent bout of bronchitis.
"I'll go get your antibiotics and some soup. The doctor said you should take them with food," he said, turning back towards the door. He was almost out it when he heard Don respond.
"You know, this isn't supposed to be the way it works."
He spun around. "The way it works? Why? There's a script?"
"I'm supposed to look out for you," Don intoned.
Charlie put a hand out and leaned against the doorframe. "I thought brothers are supposed to look out for each other."
"You know what I mean."
Charlie blinked at his, feigning ignorance. "No, I don't."
"I can take care of myself."
"So you keep reminding me."
Don let out a laugh, and Charlie was sure it would trigger around round of coughing and was surprised when it didn't. "I guess I do sound like a broken record, huh?"
"A bit," Charlie agreed. "You know, Don, letting your younger brother take care of you doesn't make you weak. You're sick. You have walking pneumonia, which despite the fact that I downplayed it for Dad, isn't good by any stretch of the imagination."
"I know," Don admitted and rubbed a hand across his forehead. "Honestly, I have nothing against you taking care of me."
"Well, that's a lie."
"It is not."
"Um, yeah it is."
Don shook his head. "No."
Charlie raised an eyebrow. "Do you want me to write you an equation and prove it? You don't like the idea of me taking care of you for a change because you always blow everything off. You get shot and it's just a graze. Never mind the fact that a man aimed a gun at your head first and missed. You come over with a brace on your knee and it's nothing - just a little fall while chasing a suspect. You wonder why Dad worries. Dad isn't just the only one that worries."
Don gave him an odd look. "You worry about me?"
"Yes. Is that so surprising?"
"Well, yeah," Don admitted. "No offense, Charlie, but half the time you're off in-"
"My own little world," Charlie finished. "I agree, I can be a bit...spacey. But that doesn't make me completely unaware. Just a tad focused."
"Focused? Obsessed may actually be a more apropos."
"Alright, maybe obsessed might be a better description, but what I have come to expect lately is you being there for me; therefore, you can't fault me when I want to follow my older brother's example."
Charlie watched Don mull over his last sentence. "No, I guess I can't," he finally admitted. "I'm just not used to this, you know."
Charlie gave him a small smile. "Consider it a turn of the tide, then. Next week, you can return to removing the graphic crime scene photos from the files you give to me to review."
"You always need it," Don insisted.
"Not always. You could use a little looking after now, though. Get under the covers. I'll go get that soup."
"I'm not hungry," Don said, scooting under the sheets. Charlie started to tuck the blanket around him, but Don grabbed his hands. "Now that I can do."
Charlie laughed. "Okay, okay. Guess I am hovering just a bit now, huh?"
"Just a little."
"Well, I'm not used to this either. But I did learn from the greats - Mom, Dad, you."
"That might be true, but don't get used to it," Don muttered and closed his eyes. Charlie had a feeling that by the time he went downstairs and grabbed Don's medication and some soup, Don would be out for the count.
"I'll take that as a thank you," he said, but Don didn't answer. Instead, he coughed and turned his head into the pillow.
Charlie took that as his cue to leave.
"Your mother would so happy to see you two like this."
Charlie was closing Don's door and jumped at the voice.
"Dad. I didn't see you." He lifted his hand from the knob, leaving the door ever so slightly ajar. "You really think Mom would be happy?" He purposefully lowered his voice so he wouldn't wake Don.
Alan nodded. "Of course. You know, she made Don promise that he'd take care of you."
"She did? Well, I guess that sounds like her. I'm not completely helpless, though." He moved towards the stairs.
"No, you're really not," Alan agreed with a sigh. "So I'm guessing Don's not up to soup?"
Charlie shook his head. "Not now. But it's okay. I'll bring him some later so he can take his pills. I'm going to work up here for a while, I think. Grade some papers."
And with that, Charlie took another look towards the not-quite-closed bedroom door and followed his dad down the stairs to gather his work, knowing that for the next couple of days, he probably wouldn't be straying too far away.